Listen to the radio feature here:
Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations says new sanctions levelled at the country by the United States will inevitably harm bilateral relations between the countries.
US president Donald Trump has now signed into law the new sanctions, voted in by a large enough majority of the US Congress that it could have overcome any veto by him.
The sanctions are intended to punish Russia for interference in the 2016 US presidential election, the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and other perceived international violations.
They will also affect Iran and North Korea.
Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, says the sanctions will not change Russian policy, though.
“It is harming our relations inevitably, but we will be working in conditions that exist in the hope that it will turn one day. But those who invented this bill, if they were thinking that they might change our policy, they were wrong, as history many times proved. They should have known better, that we do not bend, we do not break.”
Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev has taken to social media, saying the Trump administration has shown total weakness in imposing the sanctions.
He says they are a declaration of a full-fledged economic war on Russia.
Mr Nebenzia says Russia always gets the blame.
“This bill was adopted by the US Congress on the host of absurd accusations about Russia. I really wonder is there anything in this world today which Russia is not guilty of? Some of the US officials were saying that this is a bill that might encourage Russia to cooperate with the United States. To me, that’s a strange sort of encouragement.”
The legislation also limits President Trump’s authority, allowing Congress to stop any of the President’s efforts to ease the sanctions.
Reports say he grudgingly signed in the legislation, believing it was “clearly unconstitutional.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders maintains the President supports the sanctions but did indicate a displeasure on his part.
“The President favours tough measures to punish and deter the bad behaviour of the rogue regimes in Iran and North Korea. And he also sent a clear signal that we won’t tolerate interference in our democratic process by Russia. The bill was improved, but Congress has encroached on the power of the presidency, and he signed it in the interest of national unity. We’ve been very clear that we support tough sanctions on all three of those countries. We continue to do so. And that has certainly not changed, and I think that was reflected in the statements today.”
It has been a busy day for the President, who also announced new legislation which would cut legal immigration into the United States by 50 per cent over the next 10 years.
The new RAISE Act would set up a merits-based system similar to Australia’s, prioritising English-speaking immigrants who are highly skilled and can financially support themselves.
RAISE is an acronym for Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment.
President Trump says the legislation would be biggest change to US immigration policy in 50 years.
“This legislation will not only restore our competitive edge in the 21st century, but it will restore the sacred bonds of trust between America and its citizens. This legislation demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families, who deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first and that puts America first.”
(First published for SBS World News Radio on August 3rd 2017)